Red Thread Chronicles

An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break. -- Ancient Chinese Proverb



Friday, January 19, 2007

We've Moved! And, yes, I'm posting again!

In an effort to simply my life, I'm now posting about life, the universe, and adoption over at my everything blog, Writes and Wrongs. You can read all the posts -- even the ones about topics you couldn't care less about -- or you can go to those posts only in the Red Thread category.

Here's the link to the blog: http://writes-and-wrongs.blogspot.com/

Here's the link to the "Red Thread" category posts (once there, you can see all the categories if you want to by following the link at the top): http://writes-and-wrongs.blogspot.com/search/label/Red%20Thread%20Notes

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our Playroom!

Our Playroom!

Well, I have been less than chatty on the blog lately, haven't I? My (early) New Year's Resolution is to do better. And, ahem, finish the chronicle of the time in China and tell a few Isabella-Is-A-Sweetie-Pie stories.

But not now. Now I'm sitting in Starbucks working on a book, and since I should be working as D is taking care of the kids (guilt, guilt) I'm just doing this quick post.

We moved our bed (D and I) to a small bedroom and turned the big master into a playroom, aka "the Ikea showroom". Everything furniture-wise in this room with the exception of the small table on which the castle sits came from the new Ikea in Round Rock. I still have to organize the shelves, but we are LOVING this room!

Click over for all the pics, but here is one of CEK and CC playing instruments on the couch:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Some Old & New Pictures

Here are Some Old & New Pictures from the last days of the trip and more recently at home.

And in case you don't want to click over, here's a cute preview!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

What a great Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for, not the least of which is our little Isabella Chenchen. She is doing so great, and fitting in so well. She isn't, however, excited about Mama working on the computer if she's awake ... thus the lack of updates. That and the fact that Ikea opened in our neighborhood and we basically personally committed to keeping them in business so that we can: a) get a new desk for the library, b) completely redo the playroom with toy holders, wall to wall bookcases, a standing unit to separate the room from the bathroom (we converted the master bedroom to a playroom), a table, and a media shelf/cabinet.

Whew!

With all that, plus playing with two kids (including one under-the-weather five-year-old) and doing revisions on a book, I guess the lack of blog-update time is understandable.

But the updates are coming! The last of the China stuff and new and exciting tidbits!

I'm just not sure when ...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Visit to Chuzhou SWI, play-doh & minor meltdowns!

Well, the visit went great .... once we actually left the SWI! While there, I was following Chenchen around like a puppy wondering if despite the great strides we'd made she'd be willing to come home with me.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The morning started regularly enough, and I dressed Chenchen in a cute little dress with bloomers over her pullup (because it was about 85 degrees!) and after breakfast, we all headed to the lobby where Michael handed us off to Eva, who was awesome. She loaded us all into a large van, and off we went.

Here are some photos of us on the bus:

Don and Catherine:

Scott, Shanna & Zongming:

Carla and Chuanling:

The day was hazy, so going we didn't get to see a lot of the countryside, but we pretty much had about 1 hour and 15 minutes on a really nice freeway. Then we hit Chuzhou and the construction ... and goodbye nice roads!

On the ride, Chenchen was pretty good. She sat in her seat and ate some veggie puff, hollered and about the bloodfeud with Chuanling, but overall was great.

We got to Chuzhou, and were supposed to turn left. But most of the roads were under construction, and the road we needed was closed off. We'd been told the roads were "treacherous" and at this point, I guess they were, as we had to go down an alley, barely squeeze past some market stalls, and then ... voila! ... there we were.

Chenchen's finding place was at the gate to the orphanage, so it was special seeing where she'd been found as just a tiny baby, and so hard to imagine what her birth mother and family must have been thinking.

We parked and got out of the van and were immediately met by about four of the nannies and "grandmas" who were SO excited to see the babies, and all of them were thrilled to see them, too, including Chenchen who went to her favorite grandma in a heartbeat.

Here's a picture of this special woman who clearly adored Chenchen, and Chenchen loves her, too:



On the one hand, it was wonderful to see how loved the kids were ... on the other it was so hard to experience because the kids (all in our group as far as I can tell) clung to their nannies for dear life. The nannies told them we were good mommies and daddies and still they clung (I did get chastised for the short sleeves, and in truth it was chilly in the building. I think it's cinderblock and very well insulated!)

They took Chenchen to a bunch of different rooms and she met several of her caretakers, including the woman in the kitchen who gave them treats. We saw the room where they read and do crafts and the room where they sleep ... and we saw the crib where Isabella Chenchen slept.

Here's the reading/play room:

And here's Chenchen's crib (on the left at the bottom of the screen, with Catherine peeking into it):



It makes me sad to think that soon it will be filled with another baby ... that it can't just stay empty as the babies find homes.

The entire room hascribs in rectangular groups of 4. I'm pretty sure Chuanling's was caddycorner to hers (and I just noticed that Chuanling is standing next to that crib, so I must be right), which goes a long way to explaining why they seem to know each other so well (though I still don't get the hitting coupled with the sweet exchanges of toys and food).

The nannies kept the kids for a while, and we all followed like puppies. Honestly, it is a wonderful thing how attached these kids were to the nannies, as those of you reading from the adoption community already know. For those of you who don't, in a nutshell, "attachment" is obviously very important for a kid/parent, but when children have been raised in orphanage settings, there's the possibility of "attachment disorders," which can range from mild to severe. The fact that a child has in fact attached to a grown-up caregiver is an indication that the child is able to form a healthy attachment with the new parents. So while it's hard for us new moms and dads to see our kiddoes cling so tightly to their nannies, in the end it is a very, very good thing, and I can't even express how grateful I am to these wonderful women and to Director Dou for the care and love these children received.

After a while, the grandma that Chenchen was closest too passed her back to me, and there was some (heartbreaking!) crying.

Chenchen seemed to struggle the most with being handed back to a parent, and I think that's probably because she was the oldest in our group. Miraculously, the crying stopped by the time we'd exited the building, and by the time we'd entered the administration building for a quick overview of the SWI from Director Dou, she was not only happy and giggly again, but she seemed even more so. I think she really did get closure, both from having the chance to say goodbye to the nannies, and from seeing the Director treating us all as the parents.

The Director gave us an overview of the SWI and maps of the city and literature about Chuzhou SWI.

Here we are in the room with the Director:



He also gave us each a booklet with descriptions and pictures of our kids going back to when they were babies! That is such a treasure and I can't wait to have it translated! He explained how happy he was that we were adopting the kids, said he'd come to the states to visit many of the children adopted years ago, and that he knew a little bit about all of us (he even said he knew about me and my books and that he was familiar with them! Too bad I haven't yet been translated into Chinese!)

While he talked, the kids were kids, and then we all boarded the bus again to join the Director at a local restaurant for lunch. On the ride there, Chenchen was even more giggly and silly, supporting my thinking that the closure was good for her.

The restaurant was in a local hotel, and there were two large round tables with lazy Susans.

As we all tried to get settled, the waitresses led Catherine away. There I am, trying to keep track of Chenchen, Don is trying to put all my stuff (diaper backpack) down someplace out of the way, and my oldest child is disappearing down the hotel stairs! I wasn't actually worried ... let's just say I was concerned. And the marvelous Eva stepped in, promising to retrieve Catherine (who it turns out was having another Diva moment! Everyone down in the lobby wanted to see her!)

Here's the fabulous Eva who became both guide and babysitter – she was a dream at keeping Catherine occupied!



I took Chenchen to the potty and came back to find that the seats had been rearranged. Don was on one side of the director and Scott on the other. Thus began the drinking ... though we didn't know it at the time!

Seriously, the director held Chenchen and toasted all of us, and told Catherine how pretty she was, and was just generally a delightful host. Here he is holding Chenchen:

Then the food started rolling in. Wow! The first few items were a bit dicey-looking, but we tried them and were pleasantly surprised. And after that, the food just got better and better. It was an outstanding meal! I was eating with Chenchen in my lap, and the director at one point got up to mix egg custard with rice for her and Zongming (she was only picking at her food, after having eaten a ton of crackers during the SWI visit) and she totally chowed down. It's a really yummy dish, actually, and I have no clue how to make it. "Steamed egg" I think it's called, but it looks like a custard.

Catherine discovered some yummy shrimp (that she meticulously peeled while the rest of us ate them whole) and I discovered a soup that was too die for. The only thing that didn't work well for me was the fish ... I got a bone stuck in my throat that drove me nuts for about an hour. That didn't stop me from eating more of the yummy food, though!

About this time, they opened the second bottle of the local wine from the Director's home town. I tasted it and it was STRONG!

By the end of the meal, Don, Scott and the Director had polished off 3 bottles! At the end, Ricky joined them.

There's a video of the final toast below, but here's a still picture:





After that, we all loaded up on the bus again and went to see the babies' finding spots.

First we went to the People's Square, a beautiful gathering area that in my opinion was prettier than Tian-An-Men. Catherine ran Eva ragged there!





After that, we went to the other kids' finding spots. We didn't go to Chenchen's, because she was left at the SWI gates. Here's a picture, taken for us by the SWI staff on one of the cameras we sent:



Here are some Chuzhou scenes as we were driving back:







I didn't get any of the countryside coming back, but the fog had lifted, and it really was a pretty drive. All the way, Chenchen was a total pill. Giggly and wild and goofy. She refused to sit in her seat (or leave Chuanling) alone, but for the most part she was a joy. Again, in our experience, I recommend the SWI trip. Closure, closure, closure.

The rest of the evening was spent packing and playing, as this was our last night in Hefei. In the morning, we were off to Guangzhou for the American-side of our adoption journey!

The playing went great! CC and C played together more than before (say it with me: "closure!") and they made this lovely sculpture:



I rolled the green tube, and CC decorated it! Catherine put the whole thing together.

Mostly, Chenchen was interested in creating a sculpture from the empty playdoh containers. Ta da:



Here's part of the explosion of stuff that had to be packed:




The only hard part of the day came at the end, frankly. It had been a long, emotional, trying day, filled with long bus rides!

We didn't want room service though, or one of the hotel restaurants. Our hotel wasn't located near much, though, although there was one restaurant within walking distance. So we did that ... walked, I mean, with me carrying Chenchen and D pushing the stroller.

They spoke NO English. Not even the teeny tiny bit that the Beijing local restaurant staff spoke. But we tried! And the food was tasty, though not quite as good as Beijing (or lunch). I'm sure it would have been AWESOME had we known what to order!

We got a fish ... but it had a LOT of bones and wasn't worth the work (and I wasn't risking another bone!). The chicken came in a pot on top, and was chunks on bone as well. It was tasty, but a lot of work. Chenchen, though, went at it like gangbusters. Catherine, tired & hungry and only 5 years old, complained about the food (understandably) and we tried to order rice for her. We finally managed to communicate that, but before it came, she started crying, and that made Chenchen cry, and it was just a whole big crying thing.

Chenchen is clearly very sensitive, and of course I was convinced that all the good moments of the day had evaporated in a puff. (Hint: They hadn't).

Catherine (who had remarkably few meltdowns on the trip all things considered) calmed down pretty quickly and then discovered that not only did she like the rice, she liked the soup. And so did Chenchen. And so did Don and I.

And so life (and dinner) was good.

We paid for our meal (about $8 US) and headed back to the hotel, with Chenchen humming (she hums and/or talks) constantly!

Next up in Backtrack Blogging: Chenchen's first plane ride!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pictures!

Since I'm not in the mood to catch-up blog (actually, I'm almost finished with an entry ... ya never know)

But I got 4 rolls of film back from the SWI. Here are some selected photos of Isabella Chenchen. (Note that the "I'm number one" thing is apparently not new!)





(She really does LOVE phones!)

(Chenchen with the Director)

-- STILL Number One!

(wish this one were clearer!)

Looking at the album we sent!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

We're HOME!

I have much catch-up blogging to do, but suffice it to say after approximately 28 hours of traveling, we arrived home, then slept, and now CEK, CC and D are all sleeping again.

I'm trying to unpack and figure out what's going on in my real world.....

Oh, and two major events in transit ... CEK and CC bonded even more (for the last 2 days they've been doing great), so much so that they both drove mom and dad nuts. Just like real siblings! As Catherine says ... they're "best buddies"! (yay!!).

AND we conquered the stroller issue. After arriving San Fran, we had to get our luggage and get it through customs and there was no way I could push the stroller while holding CC while Don pushed the luggage cart. I tried. Couldn't do it. And there were no redcaps to be found (I had 100 one dollar bills specifically for tipping redcaps and bellmen, so where were they??????). At any rate, Mommy broke down, strapped Isabella Chenchen in, and pushed a screaming child through the airport. After a while, she settled down, and then when we got to the gate and went to the bathroom, she RUSHED back to the stroller and started to strap herself in!!!!!

Other exciting news: She says "Mama" all the time, clear as a bell. And she loves playing Peek Eye, and said "peek eye," too! She also says "Vroom" and imitates a plane taking off. She was a traveling pro, though she did cry in her sleep much of the long flight. I think it was a combo of stress and discomfort and the fact that she couldnt' roll over b/c I had her strapped in in case of turbulence.

OK, this is longer than I'd planned for a short "we're home" post.

Will catch up on blogging today or tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mr. Mutt

Here's a video of Catherine and Alice on the way to their first playdate (just minutes after the Karate Show), singing a song they made up on the way. Warning: It's Catchy. I cannot get this tune out of my head!!!

Karate Kid Catherine!

Here's Catherine showing off a few of her moves with her Narnia sword (the humming you can hear in the background is Chenchen):

Giggle Girl!!!

This is a video of Chenchen coming back from our group dinner on November 6, the night before the swearing in. It's dark, but gets light later, and you can see her little giggle, her cute little walk, and the baby doll we gave her for her birthday that she loves!

Our Daughter The Clothes Horse Who Doesn't Like To Shop....

Okay, backtracking to Hefei again ... On our third full day in Hefei, we did, as it says on our itinerary, "shopping for babies."

Considering how excited Chenchen was when she saw her new clothes, I thought this would be a hoot – she'd see clothes, squeal in delight, and point to many outfits that I would willingly buy just to spoil her with.

Um, no.

She LOVED the escalator, so that was fun, and a special treat since we went up five floors. Then we got to the shoes and she sort of clammed up, but was okay with the tennis shoes we bought her (although I should point out that she has yet to wear them, preferring the pink/white leather shoes we bought her on day one ... and which causes a meltdown every night at bedtime). We tried to buy her a coat, figuring it would probably be chilly in Austin when we arrive, but she was having NONE of that. (My personal theory is that they dress kids so warm here that she is rebelling now that she finally gets to wear short sleeves!)

At any rate, she will be borrowing one of C's old coats for the time being because she wouldn't even let us hold it up to her! She HATED shopping. She couldn't get away from the sales staff fast enough (I admit, I prefer the western way of shopping, without all the help, but still!). She would take my hand and pull me off to see things, but was determined not to shop for clothes. I managed 2 t-shirts by having the lady guesstimate her size (meanwhile, princess Catherine cleaned up in the clothes department!)

After that, we wandered around a bit and ended up buying two toys for Isabella and a Narnia set (sword, Lucy's potion) for Catherine, which you can see in the video if it ever finishes uploading on YouTube.

Unfortunately, even the grownups couldn't do much shopping, because this was a mall and clearly had a lot of designer stuff. CheapER, but not cheap.

It was during this trip that we (or, I) discovered that Isabella loves to hang upside down while I hold her. We played that game a LOT! Scroll down for a video if you haven't already seen it!

We explored outside for a bit and then we all piled onto the bus to go back to the hotel.

We had lunch in the room (yummy dumplings and noodles) and CC let Catherine feed her! After that, we just hung out and played. Don decided that we could use a new suitcase to lug our stuff in, so the girls stayed in the room while he walked to the supermarket (Side note: On our last day in China, I went for a walk after the girls were asleep. I realized that was the FIRST time since this trip began that I've been alone. Yikes!)

At any rate, while he was gone, we had a mini-breakthough with the girls. They giggled and built a tower together out of stacking cups (the video is already up below) and then Chenchen sat on my lap and played a silly game. She'd touch my computer, I'd say bie dong nie ge (don't touch that) and she'd laugh and laugh ... this went on until Catherine decided to get into the act, and since they really aren't allowed to touch the computer, I decided that maybe that was a good time to call a halt!

Naturally, D missed out on seeing it, but it was so wonderful to see progress ... and I got some of it on video for him!

Later, she played independently, without following me everywhere (bathroom, etc.) and even in the same room as D. More progress!!!

The night was hard, but not horrible. The shoe trauma continues ...

Tomorrow ... The SWI visit. Da da da dummmmmmm.

So Behind on Blogging!

Man, I'm behind! I'm going to catch up, though. I have an 11 hour plane ride, and a 4 hour layover ahead of me ... tomorrow!!! ... although I never seem to accomplish as much now as I think I can. That's what comes of having 2 little princesses in the house!

Here's some pics of us in Guangzhou. We really haven't taken as many pictures lately, but I've gotten some really good ones of my smiling girl! http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum47.html

Chenchen and Catherine are running around playing together now -- Yay!!! -- CC still gets tired of it sooner than C does, and C doesn't realize and we end up with a meltdown, but this is definite progress! And poor CC still has a hard time at bedtime. Tonight was especially hard as she watched us pack, and I'm sure she was confused as to what the heck was/is going on!

Went out and spent some of the last of our cash (we have burned through it on this trip!) and now the room is mostly packed. We're in the 2nd group to leave tomorrow, so we get to sleep in...our luggage doesn't have to be ourside our door until 7 a.m.!

And then it's HOME!!! (After about 18 hours total flying time and layovers in Hong Kong, San Fran, and Dallas ... ugh!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fabulous Things About China

The food!

The people, who have been so incredibly nice everywhere we've gone, even when we were the only western faces and clearly an oddity!

You can almost always find someone who speaks enough English to get by (can you say that in America? That you could find someone who speaks a second language with passing fluency? Yes, but not to the extent over here!)

The nannies in the SWIs. I can only speak of Chuzhou, but it's so clear that they adore these kids, and how bittersweet it must be to see them head off to their new families. This is the "grandma" who was especially close to Chenchen. She is pictured and mentioned all over the book about Chenchen that Director Dou gave us when we visited the SWI.

The prices ... what can I say? It really is fun to shop!

Shamian Island -- it's gorgeous here!

The Great Wall.... WOW



Director Dou at Chuzhou! A wonderfully compassionate man with really great taste in Chinese food and wine! (Picture is Director Dou and the fabulous food and wine!)

And the number one fabulous thing about China???? It's the birthplace of Princess Isabella Chenchen!!!!

Bundling up the kiddos!

Adoptive Parents Coming After Us: What you have heard is true! If you travel with young, blondish girl, you will end up with a diva on your hands. And if you don't put your baby in long sleeves and pants – and, better, a goosedown jacket – even in 85 degree weather – you will incur the tsk-tsk of well-meaning women on the street! I have been chastised for having CC in a short sleeved shirt in the Hefei airport – it was about 87 and humid! – and for having C in a short sleeve dress – probably about 90 that day, and we were both sweating!!! It's clearly a cultural thing, though, b/c in the Hefei shopping center (unairconditioned) Don and I were dying in short sleeves, but the majority of the shoppers were wearing long sleeve shirts and pants. (Chenchen kicks her covers off every night, so I think she's doing okay!)

Go Fish!

This video is from our second full day in Guangzhou -- so we've had Isabella Chenchen with us now for (short break while I count on my fingers) five days, I think.

At this point, she and C are still not chummy sisters, but as you can see, they're warming up ...

Backtrack Blogging: Day Two; Registration

In the morning of the second day, we tried to wash her hair, and that didn't go over well either, but I saw it through and she ended up with clean hair (yay!). This day, she really was more attached to me and even less with D and C. She followed me everywhere, including to the shower, and really wanted nothing to do with D or C. That was hard on Catherine (and still is, though CC is making HUGE progress in that regard), but she understands it intellectually. Emotionally is harder of course.

We braved the breakfast bar, and the kid's appetite was still going strong. She can put away the food, and is a pro with a fork, and is incredibly neat. I'm sure Catherine will cure her of that!!!!

After breakfast, we all got on the bus, and headed back to the same office where we got the kids, all of us worrying a bit what the kids would think. Sure enough, Chenchen clung to me like a leech as we walked down the hall to (thank you!) a different room, where we waited to go through the formalities of the process.

One by one we were called into another room, where we had our picture taken with Chenchen and then answered a few questions such as "are you satisfied with your baby?" "why did you want to adopt from China?" "How long have you been married?" and "Have you ever borne children?" (Don, of course, teased Debbie by coming back in, looking exhausted, and telling her he hoped she'd brushed up on the details of the Ming Dynasty ...)

After that, we waited a bit longer, then came up to sign stuff for the notary. Then we were done! Back in the bus, Michael gave us our little red registration books (the official adoption book!) and we headed back to the hotel with instructions for the next day – shopping! – and details on when to take some paperwork and laundry to his room. (The laundry was a blessing. We'd wanted clean clothes for Gotcha, and so we'd used the hotel's service. Let's just say it wasn't cheap. Even so, our total bill – for numerous room service bills and laundry and minibar – was only 2400 Yuan, or about 300 USD.

The group went to lunch at the first floor hotel restaurant, and we joined them, which went over pretty well until I made the mistake of taking Catherine to the bathroom. On the way back down the hall I heard a baby crying and said (I thought in jest), "I hope that's not your sister." Of course, it WAS, and she was surrounded by Don and about 3 wait staff, all trying to calm her. From a warm-your-heart perspective, she did stop when she saw me.

After that, we went to the room for a bit, then decided to make the trek to the Lotus Supercenter to buy a few staples and some clothes and shoes for Chenchen (since her peed-on shoes were still wet, my child went to the official registration in sock.)

Oh, I forgot the BIG "bad mommy" moment. We were on the bus heading for registration, and we're about 5 minutes away when suddenly ALL of breakfast comes back up. Yuck! We used all of our wipes and probably half of Shanna and Scott's (thank you guys!) and got her cleaned up. But foolish mommy had forgotten to pack the spare outfit in my bag, so we could only put Catherine's poncho over her and figure that was good enough. First thing when we got back to the hotel: a VERY well-stocked diaper bag housed in a promotional Sea World backpack.

Anyhoo ... there we were, happily planning to take our dual stroller to the store, only to discover that while our eldest loves the stroller, the youngest does not share the enthusiasm. She pretty much refused. I figured this was a prime bonding moment and pulled out the Hip Panda (keep in mind, the kid weighs 30 pounds ... the HP is great, but there's only so much you can do!).

So we were quite the attraction, Don pushing a stroller with a little girl we have since been told looks like Barbie, and me with our new obviously Chinese daughter on my hip.

Everyone was nice, though we did get lots of stares, "ni hao's" and hellos!

We went to the shoe department first and found a pair of pink shoes with colored dots that CC absolutely loves (so much so, that she cries at night when we make her take them off, which breaks my heart, as I'm sure the kids must have "lost" shoes if they parted with them at bedtime). We also got a few staples, and tried to get a few treats for CC by figuring out what she liked by what she was pointing at. Not easy!!!!

Then it was back to the hotel and our room. We tried to find the park but got lost, which is odder than it sounds since all I actually wanted to find was the grassy area we could see outside the window of our breakfast area. At any rate, we gave up, went back to the room, had room service, then pretty much collapsed!

We had the shoe tears at bedtime, but fell asleep quickly. Although she slept straight through the first night, the second we had night terrors. Four times, starting at 10 and then an incident pretty much every hour. It was so hard!!! But she woke up happy, although she just laid in bed, even when I told her to "come, come, come." I had to sit her up and then she got going. I figure there must have been a rule about time in-crib.

Up next: Our Daughter The Clothes Horse Who Doesn't Like To Shop....

Backtrack Blogging – 2:30 a.m. on Gotcha Day. ... Giggles and Surprises

(Before the blog note: It is clear in Hefei today, and we got a chance to really see the view without the haze and smog. It's quite a pretty town! Will upload pics when we get to the White Swan as all the cords are packed. I also have ... drumroll ... pictures of Isabella Chenchen's cute little grin to upload! Yay!!!)

After Pizza Hut for dinner, we tried to do a bath with CC and Catherine, but it didn't go over particularly well. She started out okay enough in the tub, but then suddenly started screaming. In retrospect, I think some soapy water got on the sores on her legs and stung (the sores ARE healing nicely, so I think they were just bites. Yay!).

We snuggled her up in a towel, blew off doing her hair, and got her ready for bed. She was SO excited when she saw her pajamas! This kid is gonna be a clothes horse!

Chenchen went to sleep pretty well that first night, snuggled up against me, not really moving, crying a little, and then basically passed out. She was up again at 2:30. (Ugh. We had to be in the lobby the next morning early to go to registration – aka the official adoption).

But it was sooooo worth the early morning wake-up. It was the first real glimpse of the little personality we're learning more about every day.

With Don and Catherine still asleep in the other room, CC and I went into the living room. I took her to potty, and on the way out, she saw the Mickey Mouse ears I'd included in her care package (I have NO idea in retrospect what possessed me to put MM ears in a care package, but I'm glad I did b/c she clearly loved them). She put them on and then stood in front of the full length mirror just grinning and grinning. She'd push the ears down and pull them back up and push them down and pull them up, then just play with the hat. After that, she got other things from around the room and pretended they were hats. I got grins AND giggles. Tentative – not the big laughs we get now – but real!! It was so incredibly cool!

And then she and I gravitated to the couch, and she saw the photoalbum we'd sent to the orphanage, along with an 8 by 10 laminated picture of me, Don & Catherine (it's one that's posted on this blog, but a long time ago; the three of us at one of my booksignings). She actually started pointing to each of us and saying "Mama" "Baba" "Jiejie." I was over the moon!!! Her speech wasn't clear, but it was clear enough to understand, and when I enunciated the word more, she'd do it even better. (She mostly whispers. She's very tentative in her speech, and I'm not sure if that's just her nature, or if she wasn't really encouraged to talk, or a combination of both). We did that for probably twenty minutes, with her pointing to our pictures on the sheet and all through the photo album. I really can't put into words how much it made my heart swell!

So on the whole, I'd say Gotcha Day was a big success. She fits our family perfectly and we absolutely love her to pieces!

Missing Posts???

Well, I have posted a LOT since this last entry, and they seem to have evaporated. VERY annoying!

Getting ready to repost a bunch ...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cute things about Isabella

She grins like a fiend when she's done something she knows is good.

She's a fastidious eater, cleaning up every little thing that drops on her placemat.

She has the cutest little girl walk.

She has learned a few words in English (understands, not speaks) like "trash" and "potty"

She keeps her "things" close to her, but will share easily. There's apparently a barter system at the SWI, and whenever she sees her friends from the orphanage, they will exchange toys and food.

She grins at me when I look at her now.

She took Baba's hand on her own without coaxing while walking back from lunch this morning.

She has a mischievous personality.

She loves to help clean up.

She's giggly.

She loves her pretty clothes.

She loves to follow mommy like a shadow.

She points to everything and waits for you to tell her it's name.

She's darling and she's ours and we love her!!!!

SWI Visit

I'll post more tomorrow, but today was very long and very emotional, and I don't have it in me to post much tonight. Suffice it to say that although I wasn't certain of it in the moment, in retrospect, it was a very good thing to have done (visiting the SWI, I mean). Chenchen came out of her shell even more on the ride back in the van and was a giggly squirmy little spitfire, but at the time, I wasn't sure we hadn't completely regressed to day one, as she clung to her "grandma" and wouldn't come back to me absent a crowbar. After we did that (well, metaphorically) she was great, and by the time we got outside and then into the other building for the meeting with the SWI Director, she was happy to be with Mama again, and later, even happier. Went to lunch with the director, and I think that helped even more as he obviously liked her, she liked him, and he liked us.

We never had a chance to ask about specific kids to say hi to or photograph, so I'm terribly sorry about that. I was truly trailing after CC like a puppy, not letting her out of my sight as she visited with all her nannies and the staff. She was VERY clearly loved there, and I'm so happy to see how attached she was to all the staff. But because of that, I only got to stick my camera through a few doorways on the 2nd floor. And there are several floors of kids. We did drop the gifts off, though, so Monica, Zoe Grace's gift should get to her just fine, per our guide (who was awesome, btw).

Bottom line: highly recommended for closure, very hard emotionally, the nannies and grandmas very loving, and the director is a man who clearly cares very deeply for these kids.

At any rate, more tomorrow (we go to Guangzhou tomorrow evening!). Here are the pictures. I hope some of you coming after us find your kids. I'm truly sorry I didn't have more of an opportunity for picture taking:

Part One: http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum44.html

Part Two: http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum45.html

And, although I am physically and emotionally drained, I must point out that Don and Scott went head to head with the director drinking a wine made in the director's hometown, which is "just shy of rubbing alcohol" and -- I can attest b/c I had one sip -- packs quite a wallop. They polished off three bottles of the stuff. Maybe four?? At any rate, the director pronounced Don the winner of the drinking competition, and by the end everyone was quite cheerful. Here's a video to prove it:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One more video

Here's one more video of the girls playing!

GOTCHA DAY

So, in all of these posts, I still haven't posted about the actual Gotcha Day. Here goes.

We got up early and had breakfast. I barely ate, D ate a little, and C did just fine. Nerves don't bother 5yos, I guess!

Then we got on a bus and you could hear the nervous excitement in the air. We'd thought that it was very close (I'm not sure why we thought that, but all of us had that impression) ... but no. We drove for what felt like hours but was probably twenty minutes, then parked on the street in front of a nondescript building, next to a storefront that said "insurance." Somebody made a joke that we had to buy insurance first, and someone else believed them, and there was much nervous tittering!

We stepped off the bus, and C asked where the babies were! We had to explain that they don't get handed over in the street!

We headed inside and then up to the 7th floor, and we could hear babies crying – but they weren't our babies! Another group had just got theirs.

We were led into a relatively small room (here's the link to the Gotcha Pics again: http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum41.html

There, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. And, at the risk of TMI, can I just say that I REALLY wish there were western style toilets in the gov't buildings in China? (And no, I didn't make use of the facilities!)

We heard some more baby noises, but then Michael told us that the babies weren't even in the building yet.

Sigh.

So we waited some more. C indulged in a wild game of "Toss Kitty" before we convinced her to take it down a notch, and then, finally, we heard a baby was coming! Catherine's baby (not my Catherine, of course!) came first because her little boy was from Hefei, and then Shanna and Scott recognized Zongming and Debbie and Rick recognized and were handed Alana (LaLa)! Don and Catherine and I kind of peeked out the door and we saw one nanny with two little girls. I **thought** the taller was Chenchen, and Don said it was, so we tentatively said "Chenchen?" and the nanny nodded, and so we went out slowly – and she burst into tears! At that point, we gave her (and Chuanling, although we didn't know it at the time) some space and the nanny took them to the potty.

When they came back, we tried again, by CC was having none of it. Then Catherine needed to go to the potty, so off she and I went (SHE has no qualms about the facilities!!) and when we came back, the nanny still had both girls. We talked to her a bit, and then told Dan and Carla that we were pretty sure Chuanling was in the hall with the nanny and Chenchen. Somehow (Michael, maybe, I truly don't remember) we ended up back in the little room, and I was handed a VERY upset little girl. She screamed and cried and wailed and did the boneless thing, but I held her and cooed to her and told her (in poor Mandarin, that she probably couldn't understand b/c my pronunciation sucks and I'm not doing an Anhui dialect) to not cry and not be afraid, that I was her mama and that I loved her. I sang her a couple of little songs in Chinese, too, and offered her candy, which was rejected (surprisingly, she doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, at least not for chocolate; she likes gummy life savers and these orange gummy things we bought at Disney ... too bad they're all gone!). Of course we'd been expecting this (and prepared for much worse!) so D and I weren't upset by the screaming, and even Catherine pretty much understood. I was happy to see how attached she was to her nanny. And for the record, she is absolutely precious! We got eye contact pretty quickly, and those big brown eyes just melt your heart!

Anyway, after a bit, we had to sign some papers and then we all headed out. By that time, she was teary-eyed but not screaming, and on the drive home the tears would start and stop. Chenchen is the oldest in the group, with, I believe, Chuanling next by about 6 months. She didn't fall asleep on the bus, though I know ZongMing did, and I'm not sure about the others, but it sounded like they did.

We all headed up to our room, with orders to report to the 6th floor lobby in a few hours to finish paperwork for registration the next day. In the room, I proceeded to sit on the floor with her in my lap for about an hour. She cried and sniffed and cried and sniffed and finally calmed down a bit. I wanted to get her clothes off and into something clean and fresh, but she was having none of that. At one point, I did get the top layer off (she was a sweaty mess!!) but she held onto it for dear life and later held on to her shoes the same way. Clearly, these kids lose their clothes if they let go of them, and there was just no way to communicate that clothes were now plentiful (and clean and pretty!).

It was about noon, though, so we ordered room service, and when the food came, we were blessed with a happy kid who had clearly never seen so much food in her life. Honestly, it about broke my heart how much she ate – and that she would pick and eat the bits that fell on the table, too. She ate at least as much as D and I did, and we finally decided we had to cut her off b/f she ate herself sick. So we got a cookie and distracted her with that while D took the food tray away and put it in the hall.

After that, she was okay with me changing her clothes (yay!) and I bagged up the old stuff. She had the same shoes, though, because that's all we had, not knowing her size to buy before hand. She was wearing split pants under the outer pants, and so I figured she was potty trained and put her in panties.

I put her in a darling dark purple outfit, and she really seemed to love it (thank you Kathleen!). Then Don went to get the biscuits she'd had with her at Gotcha, and she and C and I were on our own. I put her on the bed to look at toys, and she squatted and peed. Oops! Clearly my idea of potty training isn't the definition over here!

So, off to the bathroom we went, which worked out well because she got a sponge bath. She's clearly been eating enough, if not plentifully, because there's a bit of fat on her, and her skin and skintone are good. (And for those wondering, the bites are healing with the antibiotic cream, so I'm thinking NOT scabies! Yay!) About the only thing boo-boo wise was the bites around her ankles.

We changed into another purple outfit (see pictures!) and she was getting into this princess thing! The maid (bless her) brought us a fresh comforter and duvet.

The kids all seemed to be doing well when we met in the hallway. Chenchen and Chuanling are friends, although their interaction is interesting to say the least! They grin huge grins and sort of cry out for each other. Carla and I weren't sure at first if they were friends or enemies! I think they were friends and rivals, though, vying for the attention of the same nanny. That first day, they traded toys, and the grins were so big they HAD to be friends, but it really is a hoot watching the two of them together!

After the paperwork, we headed back to our rooms for more hanging out with babies!

Now, I must sleep, as it's 11 and we have to be up at 5:30 to have time to get the kids ready and have breakfast before the SWI trip tomorrow. Cross your fingers for us. I've never heard anyone post that they regretted taking their kid back to say bye-bye, and I really don't want to be the first!! Everything I've read so far indicates that in CC's age group it's a good thing as they understand "goodbye" and also the nannies can tell them that we're good parents and love them and that they want CC to love us, too. The downer is that it's a 2 hour drive each way. Dramamine is in our future tomorrow. Hopefully, potential carsickness is the only downside. We're praying it goes smoothly!

Catherine's Beijing Photos

Some good photos of folks in our group! She's quite the little photographer!

http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum43.html

Coming to Hefei (a backtracking post ...)

Scroll down for Chenchen entries ... there are several! And more to be posted before I go to sleep. Currently in major catch-up blog mode! This is the backtracking part of the blog, something I started earlier on the Alphasmart and never finished:

After Catherine and Alice (and Diane and I) scaled the Great Wall, we came back to the hotel, and on the way Michael told us when to have our bags out (7 am) and when to meet in the lobby (8:30). That, however, was about to change (cue dramatic music).

Anyhoo, because we were blissfully unaware of our impending early morning call, we went to dinner in the restaurant in the hotel, because we'd heard that cheeseburgers were on the menu. Traditional style but not traditional taste. (Not bad, just too salty.) About nine of us from the group did dinner, and after, Don and I decided to just get up at 5 and pack in the morning.

So, we crashed at the late, late hour of 8:30, only to be awakened at 10:30 by a call from Michael saying that our flight had been changed from 10:45 to 8 a.m.!!! Now, we had to leave our bags outside the door at 5 and be in the lobby by 6:15. Especially icky since breakfast doesn't start until 6:30.

Sooooooo we got up and packed, and then reset the alarms and got a new wake-up call. Then back to sleep we went. We were up at the unpleasantly early hour of 4:15 so that we could dress and pack our verboten stuff in our luggage before the 5 o'clock luggage call (little did we know you can take liquid on China intra-country flights!). Off we all went, with the hotel graciously providing breakfast bags for all of us!

The flight was uneventful and more comfortable than I expected, except for the oddity of requiring the window shades open during take-off and landing, which spurred a tantrum from a very cranky 5 year old (mine) who ended up with the sun in her eyes. We closed it and the attendant opened it right back up again. (WHAT is with that????). Anyway, she got a nap and recovered from the crankiness and the sun. All in all, C is doing amazingly well on this whole journey. I'm SO proud of her!

Once in Hefei we got settled in to our truly fabulous hotel, then ate at a super-yummy Brazilian restaurant in the hotel (we arrived in time for Sunday brunch and it was awesome!) After that, we had our adventure in shopping – we didn't go with the group, though, so we had to find the place on our own. We didn't have to cross the street, but we didn't know that, and all the horror stories about crossing in China are true!!

We ended up at some sort of tech convention center, then realized the place we needed was a/c the major street from us. Ugh! So we crossed BACK, risking life and limb, and finally made it there. Once again, C was quite the celebrity, and it took us a while to find the food. It's like a 2-story superWalmart, and all the stuff is down and the food is up (actually, there's a lot of stuff up, too, including motarized scooters for $200 USD. Don’t' think we could ship it home, though).

We were quite the spectacle as always, especially Catherine, and she and I bought nail polish for our special "last night as an only, girl day" party, where we painted each other's nails. Was quite fun!

Anyway, we bought WAY too much stuff and put WAY too much strain on the stroller and I ended up having to carry much of the stuff home. I'm getting a lot of exercise on this trip!

After that, we pretty much hung out and spent our time being nervous about tomorrow until someone (Rick, I think) called and said some of the group were going to dinner. Michael joined us and we had some FABULOUS Chinese food in the restaurant on the third floor of the hotel. Truly yummy, though some of it wasn't recognizable (as in, D and I were the only ones who would eat the soup we ordered b/c there was something ... odd ... in it. But dang, it tasted good!!!)

After that, we pretty much crashed and tried not to be nervous about meeting Chenchen the next day!

Chenchen's Clothing Size & Developmental stuff

Several of you out there in cyberspace have asked, and darned if I can find the comments or emails now, so I'm just posting it here. (For those traveling behind us, maybe this is informative!)

Chenchen will be 3yo on 11/8. She's 95% in height and weight (at least according to the paperwork; we haven't had the medical yet) on the Chinese charts, so she's a big girl for her age. She fits perfectly in 2T clothes, and the 3T stuff we brought is also working, although it drags the ground a bit. I'm talking pants (so far I have not challenged the clothing police by taking her out in a skirt with her legs bared, although I did get a talking to by a woman who was concerned about Catherine's sleeveless dress today. And it is HOT here! I just shrugged and said "mei quo" -- i.e., America...what can you do?? -- which seemed to amuse her!)

Developmentally, Chenchen is more in line with an 18 month old on some skills and a 2 yo with regard to other skills, and even younger with regard to her speech skills. The speech, of course, is in part because of the cleft, and I can tell that she can understand a LOT, though mostly she grunts and points. She will try, though, and she can do "mama" pretty good, though she's very tentative in her talking. 18-24 months is right about what we expected developmentally, as kids in orphanages "lose" about a month of development for every 3 months in the institution, and since she's right at 3 years old, she lost about a year. We anticipate she'll catch up very quickly, though; we can already see her blossoming!

Mei Mei & Jie Jie Playing!

On day one, CC velcroed to Mama, but didn't seem distressed by daddy or catherine. Not so on day two. She's been giving Don a few smiles, but Catherine was not only getting the cold shoulder, CC would cry if I did something with C rather than her. This wasn't terribly surprising to D or I, but it was very disappointing to Catherine, who has SO been looking forward to being a big sister.

So imagine our excitement when this morning (after waking up 4 times with night terrors, poor baby!) CC decided to do Catherine the honor of letting her carry her toys. This, frankly, was HUGE, and I expected nothing more today.

But after the shopping mall, we came back, and Chenchen started playing with the stacking cups. Lo and behold, Catherine joined her, and soon they were playing together! I was taking pictures, and got a video, but was stupidly holding the camera sideways, so it's an altered perspective on the world.



As if that weren't fabulous enough, later on, I was at the computer with Chenchen on my lap. She started to touch the screen and the keys, so I said "Bia dong nei ga" (not sure about the spelling, but it means (I think) don't touch that. Well, the little spitfire made a game of it, grinning and touching, and I ended up tickling her and she laughed and laughed. Don was at the store buying a spare suitcase (we wanted to ship some things, but we're having shipping issues) but C got in on the act, and Chenchen was fine with it. They even did a little dance together, and all Chenchen did was laugh and laugh.

Later this evening, alas, at dinner, Catherine got in trouble and ended up crying (not a major thing, but she's overly tired and sick to death of not having food she really likes) and poor Chenchen started crying too. Hopefully we didn't backtrack on our progress! I don't really think so, because she was giggly again later in the evening and gave kisses.

If I say "Chenchen kiss," she presents her cheek. But today, I said "Chenchen kiss mama," and actually got a kiss on the lips. Astounding!

Oh, and I asked her to bring me a pen ("bi") and she did. No trouble at all!

The connection to Blogger just died. Sigh. No idea when this will post ...

Chenchen's Favorite thing

Shopping today, I discovered this, and got our first belly laughs! Hanging her upside down and then lifting her up. She's also a fan of escalators, but not of shopping in general. She LOVES her new shoes, but otherwise was uninterested and fearful of something.

Anyway, must get Queen Isabella Chenchen off to bed ... here's the video, I hope!

Pictures from Day 2 & 3

We've been so busy WITH Chenchen that we haven't been taking enough pictures! But here are some and in a sec, I'm hoping to download a video. Stay tuned~!

http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum42.html

Today was a HUGE milestone. I'll go into detail in future posts, but CC has been soooooooo jealous of Catherine. Cried when I'd hug C or show her any attention. (that was a day 2 thing. on day 1, I think she was just in such shock that she didn't care.)

At any rate, this morning on the way to breakfast, CC let Catherine hold one or two of her toys ... and after we got back from shopping, CC and C actually PLAYED together!!! YAY!!!!!!

Monday, October 30, 2006

High Fives, "Lamp", Bath woes, and some catch-up blogging!

Wow, where to begin. I guess I'll start with the fact that the family is asleep in the next room. All of them. Totally zonked. I'm surprised I'm up, actually. I mean, it's 8 p.m. But more than that, I'm surprised because the only tears of the evening came when we told Chenchen (at least, I think I told her) that it was bedtime. Not big sobs, just little tears. But I snuggled her up next to me and she fell asleep in minutes. Fortunately I didn't, as we hadn't yet set any alarms, and we seem to be back on "real" time, so we need them now.

I peeled myself out from under her and came in the living room to clean up the pizza debris. Michael was a doll and got pizza for all the families that wanted it! Both girls loved it, and I swear Chenchen can eat anything. We haven't tried a straw yet, but she loved the yoghurt drink poured into a cup. The cleft is no problemo whatsoever as far as eating goes. She snarfs down everything. About the only time it seems to be a problem is when she drinks too fast; I think it goes down the wrong way and she gets some congestion sounds going. Once we had some milk out the nose, but nothing major. This kid has it down!

She is a sweetie and comes when I call her, which is so cute. And she helped clean up the toys -- the crayons and the stacking cups. She loves -- and has essentially claimed as her own -- a little mirror that came in C's birthday present dress-up kit. So far, C hasn't minded (but there are signs of starting to act out. nothing bad, but divided attention coupled with exhaustion is clearly wearing on the kiddo!).

We tried to do a bath tonight, but it didn't go over very well. Started out okay (well, first she started to pee in the water, so we had to nip that in the bud!) but after soaping down, she got very distressed! She was having fun, too, so something happened, and in retrospect I think the sores on her legs (bug bites, I think) didn't feel good with the soap. But we did get her washed except for her hair, which I may do in the morning in the sink.

She is a total sponge with regard to information. It's so cute. She LOVES Goodnight Gorilla, but she flips through and points to things, I tell her what it is, and she moves on. We were sitting on the bed reading, and she pointed to a lamp in the book, and I said "Lamp" then pointed to the one on the bedside table and said "lamp." She looked at me and softly but clearly said "lamp." I pretty much danced around the room! After that, I gave her a high five, which I first demonstrated with Catherine's help, and then said "Chenchen, high five," and she did it! She even repeated it a few times, including minutes later when Don came back into the room! What a smartie pants!

I've gotten one real smile and a couple of almosts, but Don has gotten many many smiles. I think it's a fair trade off considering she's my shadow. All in all, she seems to be doing well with both of us, and is doing better little by little with Catherine, too. I'm guessing (and hoping, though not expecting) that they'll be romping together by the White Swan in a few days.

We're still planning to take her back to the SWI to say goodbye and so we can take pictures, but we may play that one by ear. We're going to see how well she's doing. Everyone we've talked to says it helps (particularly in that age group) but I just want to consider it carefully before we do it. Right now, though, that's the plan, and I think it will be okay. If tomorrow goes as well (better?) than today, we're going to walk to the market and buy CC and C (who knew I had so many C girls?) some new clothes. And new shoes for CC, who is almost too big for these (which may still be damp tomorrow anyway).

I didn't think (duh) to take any pics of CC eating, but here's one of C and CC watching Baby Mozart:




And here is one of Chenchen with the stacking cups:


Here are a few more assorted pics:











She said Mama!!!!!

That's all!

Just had to post that!

Meeting Chenchen!!!

Click here to see our photos from meeting Chenchen!!!!!!

We got her about 10:30, and at first she was sooooooo unhappy. Screaming, crying, hysterical unhappy, which lasted all the way back to the hotel. After that, she was kinda sorta okay, but only on my lap, and she hoarded everything we handed her in her pockets and in her/my lap. The tears came and went, but slowly we saw the sweet little girl peeking through. She is absolutely precious, and all three of us just adore her! C keeps saying what a cute baby she is!

We tried to change her out of the little yellow outfit she came from the SWI in, but she was having none of that. So we snuggled on the floor, with her velcroed to mom and not sure what to make of baba and jie jie (disappointing to C, of course!). The toy phones are a BIG hit. At this point, no interest in the stacking cups.

We were all starving (it was past noon by now) so we ordered lunch, and this kid just ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ... well, you get the idea. We had to cut her off b/c we were afraid she was going to puke. She ate more than the three of us combined.

After that, though, she let me change her into a new outfit (it fit! it fit!) and then the hanging with mom really began. We'd sent her Goodnight Gorilla, translated into chinese (pinyin and characters) and I think someone must have read it to her, because she really enjoys going through it and pointing to everything.

Don left to go to the store, and we went into the bedroom (couldn't live w/o a suite; I really couldn't!). Chenchen grunted and squatted ... and peed.

So I stripped her down and washed her off and decided that my idea of potty trained and China's is not the same. Now she's in a princess pullup and that seems to be working out just fine. She loves the new outfit, which has a matching bow, which she is so proud of. She peed on her shoes, though, and D didn't have his phone on, so I couldn't "order" new ones from the supermarket. Hopefully hers will be dry by morning (I rinsed them out ... we shall see!).

The girls did stickers on the bed for a while. C is sooooo eager to have a buddy, and Chenchen just isn't sure what to make of her. When C is calm and slow it's okay, but C is rarely calm and slow. But so far C seems to understand and is doing a great job being a patient jie jie.

We went out to the elevator lobby to meet Michael with the other families to do paperwork, and she was so much the oldest, running to each of the other kids and checking on them, and sharing things (including her hair ribbon and stacking cups). That was the only other time she got sad, a few tears near the end, which I think was a combination of seeing her friends (the whole crew is doing really well) and missing her nap (she is so not interested in a nap, and I have to think the CWI puts them in the cribs on schedule whether they need a nap or not.

Once we got back in the room, though, she was fine again. (Yay!). She gravitated to the stacking cups -- which she'd previously ignored -- and played with those for a while.

C watched a video, and once that was over, I put in Baby Mozart, and now both girls are watching, with Chenchen hugging her Heffalump and her pink monkey, both of which seemed to terrify her at first, now she's pointed and asked for them.

We still haven't gotten a smile (amendment ... just got a tiny one!) but she smiled a lot when she saw her friends, so I know it's in there! We also have heard zero words, just grunting and pointing. We've been told she does talk, but doesn't much like to, so we'll see. She definitely can hear and understand her name, so that's great. And she and Catherine have moved on from the DVD player to coloring on the floor. I've tried asking questions and don't get any yes or nos verbally or in head shakes, but you can tell the wheels are turning behind those beautiful eyes. She's taking everything in and doesn't miss a beat. And man is this kid fastidious! She wipes her face after every bite, is distressed if she spills on her clothes, and was using a rag to clean her sippy cups!

thanks to everyone from the WCCSN list who emailed me back about the bath question. I think we'll do one tonight. She has a dark spot on her bottom -- I think it's a mole, but we'll definitely ask Dr. Louis -- and some mosquito bites, but other than that she seems in great health. And her clothes are all fitting (yay!). She's WAY too big for one of the little patriotic dresses. The other one isn't as cute, but it'll do for the CA appointment.

Right now, she's in my lap and C is brushing her hair. Getting hard to type, so I think this is the end of this entry. More later!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Optometrists and Acrobats (Beijing, Day One)

Optometrists and Acrobats (Beijing, Day One)

Hey! I found a page on the Mac site that lets you write more. Fewer pictures, but while blogger is down, I'm using it as an alternative.

So click the link above to see the blog entry on the further adventures of Don and his glasses (I can't remember how far I got in the last entry!) along with a bit on the acrobats. WAY cool!

Beijing, Day Two

Beijing, Day Two

Here are some pics from Day Two in Beijing (plus a few shots of the Acrobat show and theater).

Day Two was the Cultural Tour, and, yes, as always I'll write more later! Tian-An-Men, Forbidden City, lunch, Friendship Store (we bought a Cloissone (spelling?) clock) and then ... YAY ... the Great Wall!

Details to come, assuming I ever catch up with myself!

Hello from Hefei and Pictures from Day One in Beijing!

Blogger is back up (whoo hoo!), and I've managed to upload pics from Day One in Beijing.

http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum38.html

We're safe and sound in Hefei -- and for the moment at least have Internet! And the best part? At 10:00 a.m. tomorrow we
get our little girl!!!

Wow. Hard to believe the day is really here! We're hanging around
the hotel resting and unpacking the WAY too much stuff we brought, and
getting ready for our newest princess's arrival!

Since the internet is VERY diceys, check for pictures on the link above tomorrow afternoon/evening if there's no blog entry. But hopefully it'll be working well enough. And, hopefully, I'll have caught up on the trip before tomorrow morning!

We're going to dinner with some other families tonight, including Rick and Debbie, who is the most patient woman because she has totally put up with C's silliness! (She used to teach preschool, and C recognized a kindred spirit right off!)

Catherine is a total celebrity over here; it's too cute! Everything
everyone said about American children getting stopped, commented upon
and photographed is true ... and then some! She's such a diva,
though, she's taking it in stride. And she and Paige's daughter
Alice, have become total buddies, and they pretty much put the adults
to shame climbing the Great Wall yesterday (they're 5 and 6). Alice
is off to a diff province to get her brother, but the kids will meet
up again in The White Swan which, as Alice was quick to inform us,
puts chocolate on your pillow! The kids are very excited about this!

Signing off to finish unpacking. More later (hopefully).

T minus 17 hours and counting!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Great Wall Was Great!

Yesterday was tour day, and it was awesome! C and I -- and 6 yo Alice and her friend Miss Diane -- climbed waaay up on the Great Wall. The girls wanted to keep going. Diane and I begged off, pointing out that at some point we had to get back to the bus!

The GW is amazing, and the area outside of Beijing, and the other areas in the city we saw yesterday, are absolutely beautiful.

We got back to learn that our 10:45 flight was cancelled and replaced by an 8 a.m. flight, so no time to write. We're off to Hefei!

Isabella in just over 24 hours!!!!! We got our list of things to prepare, paper and legal fees and that kind of stuff. And we got the paper copy of the Travel Approval!

More later! Along with pictures.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Don's Adventure in Optometry

So, sometime in the middle of the night, Don's glasses jumped off the side table and ended up between the beds ... and I stepped on them. They were wearable, but not exactly comfortable. Michael unfortunately didn't know where we should go, but D was sure that he'd seen a lenscrafters as we were coming in. So we explained the situation to the guy at the front desk, and he wrote the name of a place on a card, and off we went in a taxi.

At one point, the taxi pointed to a shop that said "lenses" and asked something. We looked, finally saw the place, and then nodded ... and he drove on!!! Confused, we showed him the card, and he assured us that "women chu nali" so it seemed as if all was well. Indeed it was, because he flipped under the highway, headed back toward the hotel, and let us off in front of what appeared to be an optometry mall.

We went into the first one, and the folks were -- as always -- incredibly nice and helpful. The above picture is of C amusing herself on the stools while D looks at frames.

This one is Don during the exam.

Racing out to go tour, so we'll see if this posts!

Catherine the Diva



As we left our Beijing hotel yesterday morning, we walked into the middle of a party. Paper lanterns, festive colored paper ribbons, and lots of people in suits and ties.

It was chilly, so I ran back upstairs while D and C waited in the lobby. When I got back down, they'd moved to the front of the hotel, and C was next to a little girl and surrounded by several women. Don told me that was picture number thirteen!!! They thought she was so adorable (apparently, C thought it was cool for the first 8 or so, then started to get a little weirded out by the attention!).

When I came down I took a pic of C with the little girl, who was adorable and waved bye-bye. Catherine managed a zai jian, and off we went to start our day!

Julie Plays Catch-Up Blogging

So, continuing with our Hong Kong adventures, after Disneyland, we were all totally zonked, but wanted dinner. Our hotel was right next to the Gateway Mall, and we decided that was as good a place as any to look for food, especially since we'd already picked up a dining guide, which showed about umpty million restaurants in the mall itself. Unfortunately, since it is hands-down the biggest mall in the history of the world (well, I've never been to that huge mall in the mid-west with the rollercoaster, but trust me when I say that this one is BIG) we walked for quite a while before finding a restaurant. And after all that, where did we end up? Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill. Someone had told us we should eat there, and so we did, and it really was excellent, although we ordered way too much food. They advertise American portions, but I think it's safe to say their portions are generous even by American standards. Don and I both had grilled salmon (yum) and C had fish and chips, and we had a ton of food leftover.

The upside? C loved it, the food was good, the atmosphere great. The downside? C was way too tired to walk back (it was about 7:30) so D had to carry her allllllll the way back. Actually, I carried her part of the way, too, but D did most of the work. And at 50 pounds, it **is** work!

It was a great meal, but way more money than we needed to spend, especially since we're hemorrhaging money in Hong Kong.

General impressions of HK: Very pretty. Very cosmopolitan. Very expensive!

Needless to say, we all crashed after Disney, but we were up at the crack of before dawn as always the next day! This was our final free day in HK and we used it by puttering around in our neighborhood. We were going to eat breakfast at someplace new, but C really liked Café on the Park, so back we went for our eclectic dim sum/western/other breakfast. Then we went out to the back walkway again, where the dolphin sculpture is. C loves the sculpture ... she requested a visit every day and would run around and around.

Actually, the dolphins seem popular with the locals, too, or at least the plaza is. The first two days we saw people doing exercising, but after that, we saw and older man practicing sword play (not fencing, real swords) with a younger woman, and then woman by herself the next morning. Definitely a nice, peaceful area. Was hard not to stare at the sword folks, as it was so fascinating!

We explored the humongous mall more and have decided it is the most high-end mall every. (Although the Hong Kong airport is quite the rival! Prada, Hermes and all sorts of other high end stores all lined up in the airport!). Found an English language bookstore (had a couple of my books and several of my critique partner, Dee Davis's, too!). We also tried valiantly to find our English high tea, but alas, we had no luck!



We did have one adventure, though, which could have easily been a crisis. I've been working my way through the copyedits on The Prada Paradox, having slowed down after I found out that LAX didn't have a FedEx drop. Well, I finished them after Disney, so the first thing we did that morning was go down to the business center to send the mss back to New York. This took a while (they had no Tyvek envelopes, so the guy cut down a box to pack it in) and C and D waited on the couches for me, finally getting tired and going out to the dolphins. I joined them, and then we began our mall excursion. We were pretty much done malling and ready for lunch with C asks where kitty was. Well, D and I were certain we'd left her in the room. This was the first day we'd used the stroller, and I had a crystal clear picture in my mind of her getting in it w/o kitty. So I said I'd run back and get her, which I did. Except ... no kitty!

I'm freaking out, of course, and run down to the business center. (Accidentally locking myself out of the room in the process because I'd left my key in the little slot you have to use to get power. A maid let me back in, but I was worried there for a second! And, of course, C wants no part of putting a name tag on kitty. Sigh. Pray for us that she makes it back to Texas with us!!!

Once we had kitty, we headed to lunch, and since we'd so enjoyed the local restaurant the night before, we went back for lunch, and liked it even more! After that, we went to the room and arranged the airport shuttle, then we walked over the bridge that crosses Canton Road into Kowloon Park. A very beautiful park, but I admit to being a little disconcerted by the "be careful of the birds" signs! Pictures to come later!

After exploring there for a while we returned, bought some more candy, then went up to pack. Later we went down to the Safari Bar in the hotel, where we had a beautiful view of the harbor all lit up. Naturally, though, I forgot my camera!

The next morning, we did Café on the Park again ... farewell yummy breakfast, we loved you well! ... and filled out postcards to mail as we were leaving. Then we did final packing, answered some emails (ah, I didn't appreciate the ease, even though I had to huddle in the corner by the door to get a signal), then called the bellman for our things.

The ride to the airport was uneventful but comfortable, and the airport was pretty easily navigable, too. We'd bumped up to biz class on Air China for the flight to Beijing, and I have to say it was WAY nicer than the biz class I've flown in the States. The food was to die for and the seats had fabulous footrests and leaned all the way back. No movie to speak of (they started The Sentinel an hour into the flight, so it couldn't even land before it finished, but it was nice to watch.

Another perk of biz class was the lounge, which had everything from dim sum to ham & cheese sandwiches (of which C ate 4 ... this kid is burning some serious calories on this trip!). She wasn't too hungry during the flight, but her yummy food didn't go to waste. And once we were airborne, crankiness set in. Fortunately, after much coaxing, she took a nap, and the beast was quelled. (I think I already mentioned that the attendants gave her a cute little stuffed dog for her birthday. Very sweet!).

After we landed, we retrieved the stroller, which made it through just fine – yay – and then went and waited in the loooong immigration line. Got our luggage easily, and then Michael found us as we were leaving (which was good as I'd totally forgotten to look for a green flag; I was looking for our name!).

He had a driver with a van, so that was great, and then we settled in for the 45-50 minute ride to the hotel.

We met Debby and Rick Blasingame and Rick's mom Gloria at the hotel and had dinner with them in one of the restaurant's. Poor C was totally exhausted, but she enjoyed her noodle soup! I loved the fried rice, but the meat selection Don picked wasn't exactly my favorite (or anyone's for that matter!). But the company was great, and it was fabulous to get to meet in person folks we've been talking with on email!

(Side note: at the moment C – who has just had lunch and chocolate and is excited about our acrobat show tonight – is running around the hotel room yelling "stinky wedge of cheese." We have no idea why. Sigh. But I did get it on video. Hehe. Will post later.)

Our first full day in Beijing began around 4 in the morning, and was highlighted by 4 a.m. cocoa puffs, sleeping late (ha!), breakfast, celebrity moment, broken glasses, new glasses, grocery store, lunch (already told ya about that one!), rest and the acrobat show (WAY cool.). Just back from the show, in fact, and eating fried rice from room service. C is already asleep (fell asleep 2 seconds after we hit the highway) and I'm joining her soon. Will fill in the day's details later.

Oh, not only am I never complaining about traffic again, I am impressed with the skill of the driver's here....not to mention their patience. It's truly a free for all!

One thing I don't think I've mentioned and I should is how incredibly nice everyone is. In Hong Kong and now in Beijing. Nice, polite and very helpful. And C really is a little celeb. Very cute!

Tomorrow is a full day: Tian-An-Men square, Forbidden City, Great Wall, Cloisonné Factory, and lunch with the group. Then packing as our plane leaves the next morning at 10:45, and considering traffic, I'm betting that means we have to be up early, early, early.

Signing off for the night ...

A few pictures!

This is in Hong Kong behind our hotel, overlooking the harbor. C **loves** this statue of dolphins!





Here is a picture of our hotel.





Here's a picture of the restaurant that had such yummy food!

The Internet Is a Fickle Mistress ... (Or, how to go have a great, authentic Chinese meal and return to have your internet connection working)

Well, we came back from a FABULOUS authentic Chinese meal to find that email and the internet were mostly working. I still can't get to the blog, but I can get to the interface and to the websites for my various email accounts. Sadly, this makes me very happy, which probably says something profound about how attached I am to the internet, but I'm not inclined to examine that too closely ....

(Of course, I also came back to a message from my agent that she LOVES the next Demon book -- Yay!!!!! As Don says, that's better than a note from her suggesting that while in Beijing I look for new employment! (hi kim!). And also a message from a friend that the mass market release of Carpe Demon is available in Wal-Mart. Cool little things that somewhat illustrate why I love the internet!)

More about the dinner ... At around 2, we realized we were hungry, so we headed off in search of food, walking our legs off down what must be one of Beijing's main highway/streets. There is construction EVERYWHERE, presumably to get ready for the Olympics, and we walked down a street that is actually quite pretty, but very loud and dusty b/c of the building. We found a fabulous apartment complex -- the kind with lots of little shops, and many extras -- but no little restaurants. So we backtracked again (just me, Don, and Catherine) until we found a restaurant. We were starving and it was the only one around. They spoke no english and let's just say that the mandarin I've learned is really not sufficient, though I did communicate "fan" for rice successfully! Whoo hoo!

At any rate, the waitress brought us a menu with pictures and we ordered what we thought were noodles for C and a fish dish for me and Don, and a bowl of soup. The noodles turned out to be a cold salad, that D and I kind of liked (we think it was bamboo, but we're not sure). Since that wasn't a hit with C, we ordered her some fruit and the rice. That worked out well, and all three of us LOVED the soup. Truly amazing. C gave it "thumbs in the middle" which, for the uninformed, is better than thumbs up.

The fish was spectacular -- and they brought it by, squirming in a plastic bag, to get our okay before cooking the little guy. C, thankfully, was preoccupied with a toothpick at the time! We also had a bottle of water and two beers. After we were stuffed, we asked for the check. The total? $79 RMB, which is about $10 in US money. WOW. We tried to tip, but they followed us out and gave it back. Must ask Michael about that.

C is now playing her leapster and D is napping. In a few hours we have the acrobat show. C has been talking about it all day! I hope she enjoys!

We'd planned to see the pandas at the Beijing zoo, but decided that C needed to rest, so we asked Michael, and there are pandas in Guangzhou, which is better anyway, as Isabella will be able to join us.

Wow. Just a few days away. Hard to believe it's really just about time to get our little Chenchen!!!!

(Can't remember if I posted that to the blog or not ... we heard from the director of the SWI that they call Yongchen "Chenchen" or "DaChen". Cute!)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

IF IT'S ??, IT MUST BE BEIJING.

I have absolutely no idea what day it is, but we are in Beijing.

Initial impressions: Very big. Very crowded. And, yes, very polluted. I say this as a woman who lived several years in Los Angeles. Beijing is like what I expect LA was like back in the 70s. It's very vibrant, though, and clearly huge. As in HUGE. I am never again complaining about traffic. Ever.

Our guide, Michael, is great, and we got through the airport easily. The Air China staff was awesome, and when they learned it was C's birthday they gave her a little stuffed doggie. She fell asleep on the ride, clearly not appreciating the great food and service in business class! (Oh, to fly biz all the way back to the states!)

Not nearly as cold as we expected, though outside feels great after Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the hotel (a VERY nice hotel, too) doesn't have AC. You turn on the fan, and fan is all that you get. I think they must turn off the AC component for the winter.

At any rate, once again I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's just say that we arrived safely, have already had one big adventure in our short time, and I'll post more in a bit. I have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is, by the way. Thus the title for this entry!

One caveat before I do more catch-up blogging. Although Internet comes into our hotel room (the tech guy checked it with his laptop), my computer can't seem to keep the signal. VERY frustrating. So I have no access to email or the web unless I go down to the business center, which I may or may not do later. I might just type all this up offline and then try to upload it when there's a teeny blip off connectivity!

Oh, and traveling with C is like traveling with a celebrity! More on that in a bit, too!

(Okay, apparently I can get to some sites ... sorta. Got to earthlink, so I'm going to try to send this message. Have no idea if it will come through! I can't get to gmail, so I'm pretty much incommunicado for a while!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Link

Here's the link for our Journey to Isabella page at mac.com (this is
mostly pictures, as it doesn't allow for much text space. Doesn't
matter if these emails are getting through, but since I can't tell if
they are ....).http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum17.html

Blogger Blocking Begins!

Well, we're in the business class lounge at the HK airport, and I
think the "blogger blocking" has begun, because I can't get to either
blogger or to RedThreadChronicles. If someone is out there, let me
know if the blog is up and if this posted. Sending it by email ....

And we'lll be adding more pictures and possible commentary to the
Journey To Isabella site (scroll down to the Disney pictures, and use
the link for those pics).

Also, I can apparently access my writing blog, so I may post some
updates there. We'll see!

Off to Beijing!

Woke up this morning at 4 (again!) and realized that the guide for the acrobat show in Beijing didn’t have our new hotel.  Think I got that straightened out.

Sent out a few more fundraiser follow ups (thanks again to all who participated) then to the Café on the Park for more yummy dim sum for breakfast!  D and C are b/h the hotel b/c C wanted to say good bye to the dolphins (the metal sculpture that, I think, is her favorite part of HK!).

In 1.5 hours we head to the airport.  No idea when I’ll have internet access again, but I plan to do some blog entries on the plane, and will upload when I can.

And in honor of C ...

Zhu ni sheng ri kuai le
Zhu ni sheng ri kuai le
Zhu ni sheng ri Ca-the-rine!!!
Zhu ni sheng ri kuai le

Five years old today!

Mommy and Daddy love you!

Disney Here, Disney There, Disney, Disney Everywhere!

Well, we totally succeeded in keeping The Disneyland Trip a secret from C, and oh my gosh, was she excited when she figured it out!

But I'm ahead of myself.

The day started – like our days lately – at 5 a.m. I'd gone down to ask the concierge the day before how we get to Disney, and he'd explained that it's pretty simple because – ta da – Disney has their own stop on the metro!

Unfortunately, Disney also doesn't open until 10, so we had some time to waste in the morning, a chunk of which we filled by eating again in the hotel (a restaurant that has pretty much become C's favorite).

(** a brief aside before I forget. It's currently 4:01 in the afternoon here. This was our relaxation day; we walked around, explored the mall, ate at the squid restaurant since it was so yummy. Now I'm sitting by the door of our room – the only place to get a wireless connection – C is sleeping on the floor next to me – she fell asleep waiting for her pictures to upload – and D is asleep on one of the beds. Guess it really is a relaxation day!)

At any rate, back to yesterday ... we get up, eat, piddle around, and finally get going. We take a shuttle to the Kowloon Station, then catch Disney Resort Line to Disneyland. Although they announce the stop at least 4 times, C has no idea where we're going. We ask her once to guess. Her response? Chuck-E-Cheeses. (Thankfully, that is NOT our destination!).

At Sunny Bay (which really does look cheery and sunny!) we have to change to the Disney shuttle train, and still, she doesn't get it.

The train pulls into the station. Here's a pic:







Catherine says "Hey, that train has Mickey Mouse ears." Still, though, she doesn't guess. The train stops and she says, "Are we going to Disneyland?" D and I say "yes!" and we get a very tentative, "Yay!"

Then we sit down in the train, and she thinks about it for a while, and asks if we're REALLY going. When we say yes again, it's an explosion of excitement! Of course, I don't have the video on now, although I do catch a bit of the tail run of repeat excitement!



In case you're wondering, Disney HK is much like Disney Anaheim, only smaller. It was awesome, though, because we waiting in line for pretty much nothing! We did the Buzz Lightyear shooting alien thing 3 times. It was fabulous! The first time C was scared, then she begged to go back!



The park looks the same (no surprise there) with the only real difference the fact that Tomorrowland still looks really retro, and that the restaurants all serve congee and noodles and such. Plus the typical fare like Mickey Mouse waffles.

C was quite the hit, too, with all the characters singling her out to talk to. Here's a video of Donald and Daisy and their assistants going over C's autograph book (which has pics from her DLand trips at age 18 mos and 3 years).



The park was in full Halloween swing, and C enjoyed going around to collect stickers for a souvenir sticker book. The only downside of the day, in fact, came when we had almost finished the sticker book and left it in the parked stroller (a rental from Disney) near the Emporium on Main Street. As C stood in line for some character pics on the other side of the store, D went to retrieve the stroller, and it was gone!

Determined, he went in search of it, while C of course is horribly bummed out, since her sticker thing was in it (thank goodness we took her camera and my sweater out!). At any rate, he came back WITH the stroller. He'd walked all the way down Main Street looking and looking, and he met eyes with a guy sitting on a bench. The guy looked away quickly, and D saw that there were a bunch of strollers parked by a store, but one was backed in. Some of the strollers had no name tag (they write your child's name on a card in the back0 and so he was going to go look in those for our sticker thing. Well, he also checked the one backed in. Sure enough, it says "Catherine." He started to pull the stroller out, the guy shifted, he pointed and said, "My daughter." The guy turned red. At the same time, his wife comes out of the store, sees what's going on, and slaps him! (Her husband, not Don). Apparently, husband decided to save the $50 HKD (about $7 US) and didn't go all the way to the rental place when his wife asked him to fetch one!

In the end he was very apologetic, and the whole thing turned funny. But I'm soooo glad we got it back. So was C, who was so tired by this point she could barely walk!

One of the reasons she was so tired was that she played in the Tiki water area ... and made some new friends. That's actually why we were in the store – to get dry clothes! (We bought her a cute piglet outfit and a matching one for Isabella).



All in all, a wonderful birthday for a little girl (a bit early; her bday is tomorrow, 10/26). I'll close with some pics from Disney:







Here are a buncha Disney pics: http://homepage.mac.com/juliekenner/JourneyToIsabella/PhotoAlbum37.html